Happy Dre Day! This Friday, June 19, at the Compton Community Center, gangsta rap fans will celebrate the glory of Dr. Dre. It’s the second annual such event, honoring “Compton’s First Black Billionaire,” following last year’s $3 billion sale of his company Beats to Apple.
Dre himself likely won't be there. He didn't come to the inaugural event last year, when he was given a "Lifetime 'Hood Pass," an actual trophy along with a scroll signed by O.G.s from all of the Compton gangs, allowing him to be in whatever neighborhood he'd like with impunity. Nonetheless, other rap heavyweights, as well as Compton’s mayor and two City Council members, will be on hand to extend their regards. After that, the event will turn into a raging G-funk get-down.
For Mayor Aja Brown, it's something of an about-face, and indicates that the city of Compton is finally behind its most famous export, gangsta rap — which wasn't always the case.
Home to only about 100,000 people, Compton surely has the highest per-capita rate of hip-hop superstars anywhere. Beyond Dre, their ranks include Eazy-E, MC Ren, DJ Quik, MC Eiht, The Game, YG, Problem and Kendrick Lamar, practically a who’s who of the genre.
Owing to gangsta rap's controversial lyrics, the powers that be have often kept these artists at arm’s length, at least publicly. Former mayor Omar Bradley nearly denied Eazy-E a permit to film a video in the city in 1993, claiming that his music had given the city a bad name: “[W]hen the mayor of Compton goes to New York, he's a joke. He's a joke because they think the city is full of animals.”
Bradley at one point bestowed upon Eazy-E a key to the city, and later did the same for DJ Quik, who will also be honored at the Dre Day event. But Quik said this was in spite of, not because of, his music. "I was such a philanthropist, I probably gave away $250,000 to the city of Compton, my guy," he told HipHop DX. “I got the key to the city of Compton when I was 29 years old. They didn’t give me that for my music. That music was violent. They gave me that because of how I was going back into them schools and raising money for them schools."
Compton’s current, hip mayor's support for the genre hasn’t exactly been unequivocal either. “The perpetuation of gangster rap has really put a negative image on the city of Compton. So I look forward to addressing that image, changing it and making it more accurate,” Brown told Good Day L.A. in 2013, shortly after her election. She added that, while hip-hop may be the town’s greatest claim to fame, rappers were just a small part of what made the city great.
But following the sale of Beats last year, Brown did something of a pivot. She offered Dre the key to the city, and in the same breath asked for his help sponsoring local programs. It’s clear that his entrepreneurial prowess and not, say, “Deeez Nuuuts,” impressed her.
"I poll kids all the time. I ask them, 'Who is Dr Dre?' And they say 'He's a businessman, the creator of Beats by Dre,’" she told the U.K. Telegraph last year. Are they using his headphones to listen to Straight Outta Compton, the Telegraph asked? "No, they are not,’"
Whatever the case, Dre Day returns this Friday. In addition to him and DJ Quik, Kendrick Lamar and The Game will be honored (the attendance of the latter three is confirmed, says event organizer Marvin Kincy), as will Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine, who will receive an "Honorary Homeboy" award. Even if Dre doesn’t make it, one can’t help but be glad the event is going down. The city of Compton should by all means be profiting from its finest export.
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Dre Day takes place Friday, June 19, at the Compton Community Center, 301 N. Tamarind Ave. Tickets are $40, and can be purchased through Silvia Nunn Angels, 200 N. Long Beach Blvd. The event goes from 8 p.m. to midnight, and there will be finger food and wine.